New Suns come with assembly required

March 09, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI |

HAGERSTOWN — The clock started ticking for the Hagerstown Suns on Wednesday.

It was the first day of the rest of the Single-A baseball team’s much-anticipated season, the day that manager Brian Daubach got a firm group of players to work with as the Washington Nationals began finding places for everyone in the organization.

“The minor league camps report (Wednesday),” Daubach said via telephone from the Nationals’ spring training site in Viera, Fla. “They will all be here and split up into four minor league squads and we will begin working on four different minor league fields.

“It’s hard to say who will be in Hagerstown yet. We have 25 days left and (the early group Daubach has been working with has) only played two games so far.”

Not every player in the group Daubach received on Wednesday will necessarily end up with the Suns. There are many variables used to decide the final team that will head north to Hagerstown on April 3. The Suns will be hosting the Harrisburg Senators, Washington’s Double-A team, in an exhibition game on April 5 before the team leaves to open the regular season on April 7 against the Rome (Ga.) Braves.

One of those variables is the “trickle-down effect.” As players are eliminated from the Nationals’ spring squad, they are either released or optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. If the player accepts the option, that forces a player to be sent down to Harrisburg, which sends a player to Single-A Potomac, which sends a player to Hagerstown.

For the Suns, the biggest move will be when the Nationals assign Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 amateur draft, to the minor league camp. Harper has been playing with the Nationals thus far this spring, but there have been strong indications that he will probably begin his climb to the majors in a Hagerstown uniform.

“We have three clubs ahead of us, so a lot depends on what happens on the major league level,” Daubach said. “Some guys might not want to accept being sent down and it changes things.”

Until the changes are made, it is time to work.

Daubach said the minor league teams will have about 10 days of workouts before they start playing exhibition games.

“Our first workout is Thursday on our own field,” Daubach said. “We’ll be working on fundamentals. We’ll be taking ground balls. The pitchers and catchers will work a bit. The pitchers will be working on their defense and where to go with the ball. We’ll have batting practice.”

Daubach said that the Suns could be starting the season with a young team.

“The guys who played for Hagerstown last year had good years and will probably be moving on,” he said. “We’ll have to work from there.”

Daubach will be in his first year with the Suns and will be replacing Matt LeCroy, who was promoted to manage Single-A Potomac and will probably have a majority of last year’s Suns playing for him.

Now it is Daubach’s turn to mold the Suns.

“It will be what the organization decides for each club,” Daubach said. “What we are going to be doing is learning. From this point on, we are just working to get better every day.”

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